Monday, September 9, 2013

My Return to Manti

In a few days, my wife and I will go to Manti (where we were married) and perform the sealing of my parents.  I will then seal myself and my deceased brother to them, as well as they to their own parents. This has been a long time coming, something I've wanted and dreamed of for the almost 40 years I've been a member of the church.

But however special it may appear to those helping us in the temple that day, they will have no idea of how complicated this action is in my heart, and I suspect in my parent's hearts... Mom and Dad divorced after 18 years of a rocky marriage because my father could not deal with my mother's bisexuality. Thankfully, separately they repaired their relationship and remained loyal friends throughout their later lives. My father never remarried. My mother found a loving woman partner with whom she shared the remainder of her life with for 22 years. Josephine remains part of our family circle to this day, and I love her dearly.

As I enter that lovely pioneer sealing room and kneel with my wife at the same alter where we entered our marriage, but now to speak for them by proxy, in agreeing to the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, I hope my parents will know that I am not there to dictate how they should live their eternal lives. I deeply respect each of their individual mortal lives, lives of honesty and integrity in which they chose not to have any faith in or affiliation with the LDS Church. Yet I will do this in remembrance of them, and because of my love for them. There, in that special and sacred place, I will visualize them, and I will read a poem to each of them, and my heart will be joined with theirs, if only for that moment.

Can this be true, that is, will it work? I do not know if a priesthood sealing is something that they now would want, or if the ordinance will have any plausible application to them, but somehow it means something to me, blooming in the faith wherein I am planted. When I received the letter from the Temple Department authorizing my father's temple work (because he had previously been excommunicated), I felt a surge of emotion that I could not rationally explain sweep over me in a wave of relief and gratitude. I want them to have all that our Heavenly Father has to give, in whatever paths of glory they choose to follow, together or separately, even as they once let me follow the Church's path despite their reservations and objections.

So, it's complicated. I'm happy and yet a little anxious to do my parent's temple work.  Ultimately I trust in the Lord's grace, and I'll just leave it for my parents to work it out. I only wish that when Josephine passes, that I could somehow seal her to my mother as well, because I know that their love was real and more fulfilling than my parent's tumultuous marriage. If that sealing can happen, it will probably have to wait for the Millenium.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Strangers in the Land

Following is an essay which I wrote for the Spring 2012 issue of Exponent II, which is focused on LGBT issues:

Strangers in the Land

Several times over the past fifteen years, my wife and I have agonized whether or not to walk away from our temple marriage of now more than thirty years. Ours is a mixed-orientation marriage, out of the closet now to our family. Our personal story has been quietly held back from most of our friends at church. Do we live a double life of faithful appearances? Can we enjoy a genuine companionship of mutual respect, love and fulfillment? Our answer today to these questions is “Yes.”

But “Yes” has not always been there for us. The painful outcome of divorce is quite common among LDS mixed-orientation marriages. Our modern Mormon culture is typically rigid and unforgiving about matters deeply connected to sex and fidelity, especially if the intrusion into the celestial bedroom is same sex attraction. Our story was typical: the gay husband finally acknowledges to himself the truth of his attractions, and the wife finds herself in a terrible dilemma of what to do next in a relationship of eroded trust and love. But our story did not end there--we have managed to rebuild and remain a loving couple.

I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a faithful and idealistic 18 year old, ready to convert the world to the wonderful news of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Particularly thrilling to me was the idea that God spoke today to a prophet! President Spencer W. Kimball was the Lord’s mouthpiece to teach me and His Church all the truths of living the obedient life. I adored Pres. Kimball’s humble persona, and I took to heart his teachings regarding the abomination of homosexuality. I believed him, that queers were perversions of what God expected of faithful men and women. I just couldn’t be gay, because I knew in my heart that I loved God and I would never engage in immoral behavior, even if I was "occasionally” attracted to guys. Never mind the persistent fact that growing up I never had or wanted a
girlfriend. Physical relationships with girls were awkward, yet brother-sister friendships were easy and fun. after my mission, I pursued dating women for the practical purpose of finding an eternal companion, and surely God would tell me when the right person came along. But after three post-mission years of wife hunting at BYU, I was frustrated and lonely.

And then Miss Right moved into my student ward. She was an independent thinker, said what she thought, and didn’t suck up to me like many young women did. She was a “feminist” and she was brilliant! Plus, she was a convert to the Church and a returned missionary. Miss Right had a great sense of humor and beautiful blue eyes that sparkled like my mother’s. Now here was a woman that actually caught my attention. However, after multiple dates I was still treading water and treating her like a sister. Sensing that our relationship was going nowhere, this assertive woman challenged me to own up to my ambiguity. Miss Right told me, “I do not want to be ‘just friends,’ I have all the friends I need!” Such forthrightness was surprising, and the thought of losing her was frightening, so I found myself saying that I wanted to get serious about our future life together. A few weeks later, I took her home to Oregon for Thanksgiving, to meet my family. And a few weeks after that we were engaged to be married. Along the way, God had answered my prayers. I firmly believed that marriage to Miss Right was what God wanted me to do.

I had never really kissed a woman. ‘Arms-length’ was not only convenient to fears about my lack of physical attraction to women, but it was also the virtuous path of righteous priesthood holders. However, Miss Right was willing to be a good coach. After a couple stumbling attempts, I learned straight from her pleasant lips the pleasure of kissing. Maybe I could actually do this marriage thing after all. Yes, I "struggled with SSA," but maybe I could leave all those feelings of gender insecurity behind me. I was 24, tired of being alone, and naivete was the name of the game. Actually, it was the only game I knew.

My wife today doesn’t recall my casual disclosure about my “SSA” and the dynamics of the Kinsey Scale. I remember talking about these issues during our engagement, but I guess my talk didn’t set off any gay alarms for her. I had bought into the notion that being “Same Sex Attracted” was not the same as being gay. As long as I didn’t act on my feelings, then according to the Church, I wasn’t gay. She loved me because she thought I was smart, handsome, spiritual, faithful, sensitive and artsy. Mrs. Right still loves me for these same attributes, but now there is a defining difference: as we were talking about this article, she confided, “Would I have chosen this? No.”

And I as well, now knowing what we’ve gone through, would not have imposed it on her either. Valentine's Day 1981 and two weeks before our wedding, I didn't get around to buying a Valentine card...big mistake! I put it off, got distracted, and didn't think it really mattered. After all, we were engaged, right? Courting was over. Perhaps my disregard should have been a flashing red light for her, but she forgave me and we still got married. However, the realities of a mixed-orientation marriage meant my desiring her has been a chronic deficit. How could she possibly feel cherished, revered as my one true love, when I was not intrinsically attached, and I felt emptiness and longing for connection with other men? Something wasn’t quite right, but she didn’t know it wasn’t her fault. In many subtle ways, my being gay broke her heart. I would never advise any of my precious daughters to marry a gay man.

I had no idea of the personal toll that a mixed-orientation marriage would exact when we started our life together. I had repressed my homoerotic feelings and believed LDS Church leaders who taught at the time that such urges would dissipate and be replaced with ‘natural’ heterosexual attractions once I married. However, as my wife and I became sexually active, the opposite occurred--I became even more hungry for physical male connection. I lived in a churn of faithful church activity, genuine emotional love for my wife, regular married sex, secret cruising and gay pornography searching for answers to my hidden sexuality, desperate prayers and repeated heartfelt repentance. Living through this cycle of guilt and shame, hoping to somehow satisfy my attractions with understanding and healing, yet fearing the insatiable need would eventually tear me apart was my nightmare waiting to happen.

After years of trying, most mixed-orientation marriages cloaked with dark secrets eventually die of attrition and/or betrayal. What saved us as a couple was that we were both committed to our marriage, and sought help from a good counselor to address our layers of issues. My SSA wasn’t the only “problem.” Through the years of raising children and meeting their needs, our survival mode had evolved into not being honest about our needs, feelings and behaviors. When I confessed my continuing male attractions and rationalized the times I got close to crossing the fidelity line, it came as a bombshell on top of our co-dependence and her clinical depression. ‘Coming out’ was painful but the open truth was easier to deal with. At first my wife wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay in the marriage. Mrs. Right angrily asked the difficult question, “How can I trust you about anything?” My answer wasn’t particularly comforting, but it was our reality: I was still the same person I had always tried to be. My wife believed the Gospel and our temple covenants could hold us together. She chose to be loyal to that faith in the face of great anguish. Even though the dark threat of divorce was sometimes overshadowing our horizon, we refused to give up. We had become strangers in the land we were travelling through, and even though we had crossed a wide prairie, still we knew we had to get over the mountains to find our home.

Positive changes in our marriage and outlook came when I stopped suppressing my gayness and became more open with Mrs. Right. I started blogging in the ‘Mohosphere’ and comparing notes with other people’s experience. We both began to accept my set of native attractions and talents as originating from biological and cultural family roots, and that I had nothing to be ashamed of for being a gay man. We have come to the conclusion that Heavenly Father loves gay people like all others, unconditionally and in the way He created them. We find ourselves more accepting of all people, especially gay folks, and we are both more open to considering differing ideas and celebrating the beautiful diversity that makes us all a human family.

I came from a family fractured by divorce, and I promised myself as a young man that I would never put my children through such trauma. But when the kids were practically grown and mostly out of the house, the rules changed. No one was making me stay any longer. My kids knew about and accepted my gay orientation. I no longer felt stuck in a horrible compromise. I could let go of my sense of family duty and come to terms with my own desires and agency. I think happiness relies on freedom to choose that which brings us purpose and joy. Saving grace came to me when I considered all the important aspects of living and loving her that I valued in our marriage, and decided that I really wanted those blessings. I wanted her. She wanted me.

Regardless of orientation, happiness and fulfillment in life is not about sex, it is about intimacy. We are finding intimacy again in our marriage. We are finding peace in our marriage, springing from a font of mercy...that is, in our giving and receiving grace from one another. Perhaps this may be too simple for some, but through our maturing marriage we find grace and kindness happens each day, one opportunity at a time, to hold, to cherish, to forgive and be forgiven.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

On the Topic of Wishing

As usual, I'm a couple weeks late in getting 'caught up' on reading my favorite blogs, and find that Beck has posted another great reflection spiced with questions and followed up with many good comments, on the longing realities of living in a mixed orientation marriage. That is, despite all the love, blessings and good intent, there is still part of us hungering for connections that probably just won't happen. It's simply because we've made and continue to make personal choices and commitments to maintain our family relationships, the benefits of which we believe outweigh the obvious alternative of persuing relationships via our more natural orientation. Such discipline doesn't stop the longing, but perhaps it does teach us about what is really important.

So, for what it's worth, I'll post my latest poem, which I've been working on for several months.

On the Topic of Wishing

During a sunny winter day in February,
That I was outside, doing something else,
Like walking the beach, hiking through woods,
Or rooting around in a flower garden sky
Of bright Zinnias, which remind one that
There is only so much life yet to enjoy
Until you slowly fade away and die.

Yes, I’m slowly growing tired and broken.
And today here I am, inside the closed box,
Ticking away at tasks, building critical mass
Of details probably important only to me.
Perhaps I should put the yellow pencil down,
Step away from this momentary diversion
Of writing a poem, and just drive to the sea.

Oh to wander the wet glistening sand, listen
To the pounding surf and savor the salty air
Filling my lungs, my soul, my quiet longing for
Touch and something I cannot quite describe,
And yet I feel the void, so easily distracted!
The setting sun enflames the wide vacant path
Along the foaming edge, driven with the tide.

Perhaps then, wishing is for dreamers who
Go nowhere, lost in their reality of minutia,
More consumed in maintenance than actually
Moving forward, not owning their time and place,
Whereas the new golden fronds of sword fern
Rise from rich earth and slowly uncurl into deep
Green spears of living flesh, and find their face.

I am told to wish for peace and joy. It works
For me, most of the time. And yet, it is slippery.
I watch it slither into the still and murky water
That decomposes the leaves and memories of guilt
Now dissolving as a rotting carcass of what I was
And recycling who I am becoming. Such living water
Shall fertilize my soul and deliver me from wilt.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Queer Defense

Monday evening my wife and I attended an informational gathering sponsored by Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), which is a political action group committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and is bringing marriage equality to the ballot in Oregon, hopefully next year. We listened to the Executive Director detail their research and efforts in producing and airing an ad campaign, "Love, Commitment, Marriage." After viewing two of the commercials and hearing about the results of a recent TV media blast in Oregon, she opened up for questions from the audience about how things are going. After two years of effort, progress in this liberal State of Oregon stands at around 100,000 "yes" votes, which is about half of what is needed to launch a ballot initiative. It was an interesting discussion of strategy and tactics for turning public opinion and winning the opportunity for all people to enjoy the benefits of marriage. At the end of this Q&A session, the last question posed was basically an attack on the Mormon Church and its efforts during Prop 8, and how would BRO work against similar campaigns of opposition.

As the Director struggled to respond with a politically correct answer, I felt a surge of desire to stand and offer an insider viewpoint. So I raised my hand forcefully and was acknowledged for "one more question." I said I didn't have a question, but rather a response to the previous question. I said, "I am queer in this group. I am an active GAY Mormon." I went on to express my embarrassment and shame over the actions of my church in the California Prop 8 battle, and how this has been a tremendous turning point for many members of the Church to question what Church leaders did in manipulating members to support a political campaign. I explained that I didn't think the Church anticipated the damaging public image, the 'black eye,' that came as a consequence of their involvement, or the loss of support from within the church. I said I doubted that such overt tactics would be used again. I concluded with my hope that change was occuring within the church, and that Church Leaders were making efforts to listen and respond to LGBT members of the church. My comments basically ended the meeting and afterwards, a dozen or so individuals came up to me and wanted to shake my hand or hug me for my words. I was frankly amazed at the outpouring of love, and that I could have something to say that made a difference.

My wife and I have had a couple exploratory interactions with BRO, to see how we might fit into their efforts, but we were kind of on the fence as to how to we might contribute in a meaningful way. After this experience, I think I may have found a voice, a niche to reach out and help us 'hold hands' with faith communities, which BRO desperately needs to participate in the marriage conversation. I don't like the 'Us versus Them' mentality that often pits groups with passionate thinking against one another. Both sides lose in these confrontations, but we especially, since it is our hearts that must change towards inclusiveness and understanding, regardless of who "wins" in the short-term. The gay community cannot afford to practice bigotry towards people of faith. Whether the 'opponent' is Mormon, Catholic, or Evangelical, I deeply believe there are significant segments of these populations that will listen and consider a message of fairness, of treating LGBT people with compassion, according to the Golden Rule. If someone genuinely believes in the primacy of family relationships and is critical of promiscuity, as our culture certainly does, why would they interfere with someone else's desire to stand up in front of family and friends and and make a commitment to love and cherish, in good times and bad?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes we need to spell it out.

It's Valentine's Day, and I'm overdue on posting to my blog. I don't think I've talked much in the past about my 'Sweetheart,' the person I fell in love with, head over heels. This beautiful woman was smart, independent, and she even turned me on. It's true, the first and only woman I ever really kissed, and someone I genuinely felt attracted to. Maybe I could actually do this marriage thing after all. Yes, I "struggled with SSA," but she proved to me that I wasn't gay, and maybe I could leave all those feelings of gender insecurity behind me. I was 24, tired of being alone, and naivete was the name of the game, actually, it was the only game I knew.

Oh my sweet Susie-Q was clever, spoke with a British accent, and made me feel like a million bucks. We could talk about anything, she made me laugh, we played games, went to movies, and I was happy to be her friend. But she didn't want to be just my friend. She told me she had plenty of friends, so what was I going to do? It was refreshing, a woman who called me out of my comfort zone, who demanded I make my intentions clear. "Okay," I said and then gulped a big breath for courage, "I only want to date you, I want to see if we can make it work." Not sure what "it" was, but I had made a commitment she was hoping for. Only, I didn't really get the dating game, the romance game, because such courting rituals didn't come naturally. Case in point, Valentine's Day 1981 and two weeks before our wedding, I didn't get around to buying a Valentine card... I put it off, got distracted, and didn't think it really mattered. Boy, was I wrong! Perhaps that oversight should have been a big flashing red light for her, but she forgave me and we still got married. (I don't think I've missed a Valentine Card yet, in 30 years, so the grief she gave me for that indescretion must have made a lasting impression.) Unfortunately, what I didn't learn from that experience, and one that I'm still trying to do better on, was her basic need to be cherished. Living through the disconnects of a mixed orientation marriage means this is a BIG problem. How can she possibly feel cherished, revered as the only one true love, my eternal Queen, when I feel emptiness and long for connection with other men? It breaks her heart. And it breaks my heart that I hurt her so. There are no easy answers to this one.

Flash forward thirty years, and now we're empty nesters. We can walk around the house again without any clothes, if we feel like it. We have great kids who are getting on with their lives and their own families, beautiful grandchildren, and we hope for many good years to come. And I still love her. My heart is committed to her, to us and our family. Perhaps not with the same naive love of my young adulthood, since a lot of floodwater has gone under the bridge, but I've weighed our options, and I want to grow old with her. I love her caring, her sense of humor, her gentle smiles when she first sees me come through the door, and the simple things that bring her joy. I am comfortable with her, even if all the lines don't always match up. I can tell her my frustrations and she still listens. My Sweetie is one of the most kind and loyal persons I know...the proof is that she hasn't given up on me yet.

So can I spell it out any better than L-O-V-E? Only that it happens one day at a time, one opportunity at a time to hold, to cherish, to forgive and be forgiven.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Write in my heart! (again)

Happy New Year! It has been a long long time since I last blogged, and yet I feel the pull to begin writing again in 2011. I hope to use my blog again as a place to share my thoughts and have dialogue with friends, which is something I've missed since moving to Oregon and being so consumed with a new life. Please feel free to banter with me.

The recent discussions in Beck's and JGW's blogs on the topic of faith, doubt and authenticity got me thinking about a poem I've been working on, and the
struggles I've had lately with trying to reconcile my discontent with church leaders and feeling a sense of place and happiness at church. Faith is no longer a simple thing for me. Part of me wishes I could go back to the years of complete confidence in and testimony of the 'true and living' church, but I suspect that what I am learning is more valuable to myself and closer to the truth of things as they really are, and not as I want them to be.

Following is a rather edgy poem for me, one that has been trying since the middle of November to get a voice that I am satisfied with. I'm still a little unsettled with it, but have decided to let it rest, publish it, and see what anyone has say. I usually don't talk back to the Lord, but it all started in response to the reading assignment in Jeremiah for the Old Testament Sunday School class. I've not read much of Jeremiah before, except for the sound-bite snippets we usually hear, like in Jeremiah 31 which the poem responds to. But I also found much of his writing, such as is in Jeremiah 16, to be troubling because of his condemnation and anger with the people. Maybe the Lord really did want him to say all the terrible things he said to the Israelites, but I know there are always two sides to a story, and human perspective often tends to be one-sided or bigoted. And so, my poem explores the exasperation we may feel as gay LDS, the feelings of condemnation, the doubt,
the blind leading the blind, the need for acceptance and redemption, and finally the call for attention from a living prophet.

Write in my Heart! (again)

Will you make our land desolate?
I'm no better than my dead father.
So call on my obstinate soul to break,
To turn away the path of destruction.

As yet, your rod of iron rusts.

Do not whisper or sigh softly
If you want me to hear, for crying
Out loud... Only then will I let the
Sound fall flat, the silence speak,

And wait for you.

Allay the pale and trembling fear,
My dread that you are not here
To listen to me. I am open to your
Transcription on my inward parts.

There scrawl your name.

I am, I am, I am hoping you are near.
Did I not feel you present, your hands
On my believing head, a blessing
Urging me to seek, to love, to see?

How then, to stumble in darkness!

Christ, I am falling in your ditch--
And I am not alone, we are legion.
Forgive us, spent and hungry,
With only a cardboard sign saying

“Anything Helps… God Bless!”

But this is our writing, not yours.
All we ask is your signature on
The corrugated line, redeeming us.
Jeremiah, where are you now?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nothing Wavering

The March issue of the Ensign contains Pres. Monson's message, "Come unto Him in Prayer and Faith." As Pres. Monson typically tends to be, it is anecdotal in its stories and message. In the midsection of the article, 'Accepting His Invitation,' Pres. Monson refers to James 1:5-6 and Joseph Smith's prayer and First Vision. He then points to many other scriptural examples of people qualifying for blessings as a result of the fervant prayer of faith. His repeated use of the phrase 'nothing wavering' has caused me to reflect on the role of my faith, or lack of it, in my own personal experience. Sadly, I confess that much of me questions, bobbs up and down, and struggles to get it right, nothing wavering.

When I was a fresh convert to the Mormon faith, 15 months to be exact, I entered the mission field to serve the Lord. That was the scariest leap of faith I have ever taken. I left the weeping embrace of my divorced mother, who didn't want me to go. But I felt this was what the Lord wanted me to do, and in retrospect, I'm thankful to have served and loved the people of California as a missionary. It was a marvelous time of spiritual awakening and maturing for me. But, unlike the glowing example capstoning Pres. Monson's article, my most fervant prayer of faith was never realized. Like Pres. Monson, my Mission President promised me that if I worked hard, prayed hard and was worthy, then my family too would come into the church. Oh, if this were possible! To see my parents reunite our family in faith and for us all to be sealed in the Temple! This was the stuff of my naive dreams, my fondest heartfelt hope, my most earnest and oft repeated prayer. So, what went wrong? Did that one time I masturbated on my mission spoil it all?

What does Faith mean to me? How is faith the same or different from hope? Having just read the First Presidency Message, these were the questions I pondered last Sunday during the quiet time of the sacrament. To me, I need other words to help me convey the concept of faith: words such as 'trust' or 'confidence' relate to me the feelings I have for Heavenly Father and the Savior and their love for me. Joseph taught that faith is the product of experience--I believe that, and it jives with my observations in life. I can completely have faith or trust in God, because of the repeated feelings of the heart and ideas of the mind they have revealed unto me. I do not doubt them. I believe in the inspiration of the eternal nature of the soul, that we lived before earth, and will continue to progress in the lives to come.

Trust is something that must be constant; you cannot partially trust someone. I trust Jesus, nothing wavering. I trust in the power of goodness, faith and love, nothing wavering.

I struggle to say this, but I no longer trust in the church, that it has or will make inspired policies that directly impact my life or others. I trust the scriptures and the doctrine, but I don't always trust the interpretation thereof. . . I don't always trust the culture and the leaders who support it. When someone breaks a trust, then faith is a hard thing to restore, because faith is a product of our experience. I believed the church when they said that I could 'overcome' my SSA, and that it would go away when I got married; my personal experience has proved otherwise. And I have come to realize my spiritual experiences in living and loving Gospel virtues doesn't always align with the historical and current actions of church leaders. The poor treatment of intellectuals and feminists and the recent events of the church's attack on gay marital rights is front and center for me in my skepticism of the claim that "it's ALL inspired of God."

On the otherhand, Hope is something I'm more flexible with. Hope is in the best wishes department for me. I hope for joy and peace in this life, and then for a glorious resurrection--I'm not sure what such will entail, because that has yet to be determined by my kind Redeemer. But I trust him, believe him, that it will be the right reward for me, whatever it is. Hope doesn't have to measure up to my expectations or timetable. I can be disappointed and still have hope that things will work out in the end. Hope is a great motivator for me, it plays to my desires, my willingness to sacrifice for something better. And I hope in a more positive future for the church, that it will learn from its mistakes, grow to be more inclusive and diverse, and overcome the prejudices and stigma of my generation. So I am willing to stick with the church and do my part to establish Zion, the pure in heart, in preparation of the Lord's Second Coming. I do have faith that He is coming, and I hope He won't be too upset with me and the rest of us sinners in His church.

This last week my LDS faithful aunt passed away. She has lived a long life of devotion to the church and her family. She had great influence on me joining the church and going on a mission. I have loved her dearly my entire life. As I matured as an adult, I became more aware of my aunt's imperfections, but I adored her just the same. I have witnessed her trials of faith, much of which were due to her sometimes rigid views of what was best. And I also saw how those trials humbled and schooled her sensitivities and blind spots, just like my own weaknesses do for me. My aunt was a grand lady who loved the Lord; she showed me by her example how to employ faith, hope and testimony. She exemplified that 'Nothing Wavering' kind of faith, for good and ill, that we cling to in our religous and spiritual lives.

My family has asked me to read some of my poems at the graveside service. I"ll read Face Towards Zion, Prairie Wind, and Outstretched Hand, because these were all poems my aunt loved. And just for the occassion, I wrote this poem for you, my dear Aunt Beth: may you rest now, in peace.

Nothing Wavering

She looks into the mirrors of her eternity, nothing wavering,
Firm in her vast hope of bright reflections that do not end.
Yet, the image of her desire curves away into deep green
Cosmos, where Life is bent into refractions that do not go

Straight, do not always conform to her will. Yet, she follows
Those bending beams of light, nothing wavering, through a
Veil of confidence that leads her onward path, and warps her
Chosen reality into the vision she dreams of when we are near.

She laughs in the day and weeps in the night. Unaware,
We ran to her arms to be enfolded in her soft bosom, endless
As the night in its comfort, then hung on for just one more hug.
Her squeeze was always there, tight and nothing wavering.

Yet, laced in loss, she hangs on fiercely as we mature into our
Own gospel dreams, the practice of our lives, where the agency
She treasures for us turns us at times away from her dreams,
And once again she is alone with her babies, nursing tears.

She sings to us the songs of Zion, her beloved. So let us dance,
Let us paint, let us teach stories of faith and persistence, for we
Are the family of her choosing. We're the ones she fried tacos for,
We are the few she took out her teeth for on our birthdays!

She still winks and chuckles at her jokes. But wait, there's just
One more story she must tell you before you leave: it's always
Roughly the same--it is her story of Joseph, her story of Jesus,
The story of her life and her love for you, nothing wavering.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gecko Revealed

"My name is Ron, and I'm a Gecko."

A little of the life and mind of Geckoman. Since I am 'coming out of the closet' and back into the world of public introspection, I thought I might share more of who I am and where I'm coming from. Such a statement of faith and purpose might help those stumbling upon my blog to construct a more complex picture of who this reptile guy is.

We moved to Arizona in January of 2006. I became fascinated with the little geckos that crawled up and down the cement block wall in our backyard. You could only see them when they moved. Often they would stay in the same place, just bobbing up and down. So I wrote a poem about it, wherein I compared myself to the little animal, going up and down in the same place. We live in a double world, as married gays in the Mormon church. Many of the faithful I know might be repulsed to learn that I am attracted to men; many might find it hard to touch or endear my little reptilian friend as well. But on a personal note, I too am often frustrated by myself, that I can't seem to control my thoughts and that I make choices for behaviors that are on the edge. So I find myself bobbing up and down, drawing attention to my own condition. However, like the Gecko, my bouncing behavior has a purpose: it cools me down and tones my strength and coordination.

As the years have moved on, and now that I've read and learned of other's common Moho experiences through the bloggosphere, I see that I'm not all that peculiar and many 'struggle' in similar ways that I do. I have become more accepting and loving of myself, and less judgemental and homophobic of others. Like others, I realize that I have known from childhood that I was a bit different, or processed things differently than most other guys. I began to especially notice this in junior high school, as I bloomed into puberty, yet I refused to acknowledge that I had anything 'gay' going on. I just chalked it up as I've always been a sensitive, creative kind of guy.

I joined the church when I was 18, and that set me back in coming to terms with my homosexuality. But that was probably for the good, since it trained me to live asexually for a few years, until I met my wife at BYU and married her. (And I am truly thankful for her and my wonderful children.) I believed the church's rhetoric that my SSA was a consequence of the sinful choices I had made, and that I would grow out of it when I got married and could have regular sex. The married sex was good, but with that increased sexual activity I also found an increased hunger for men and to be accepted as a man. However, I never went 'all the way' sexually with another man, although I could have a couple of times cruising for some kind of connection. For many years I programmed my life to be absorbed in work and family and church, and simply shut out my feelings of attraction. I'm less willing to do that now, and have chosen a path to understand my heart better, and still love the Lord for it all.

I am a man of practised faith. I know of God's goodness through personal experience, even though I have suffered injustices when it comes to finances and employment and what some people do to each other. My heart is more tender, I've chosen to be more accepting of those things I cannot change and empathetic to the plights of people struggling in a world of pride and indifference. I hope that I can overcome my own pride and enmity towards the Lord, submitting to his will more freely. I struggle with cynicism and critical thinking when it comes to our shared religion. I want to believe that it is all directed by revelation, but I suspect that many times the Lord is willing to let us evolve slowly as a people and a culture, allowing our church leaders the bias and prejudice of their tradition. I also acknowlege that change is a matter of timing, and the Lord will direct events as the saints are willing or able to embrace change. We saints are not always as humble and loving as we would like to think we are.

I'm distressed by the church's role in the whole Prop 8 controversy, and in general it's lack of inclusiveness towards gays, feminists and intellectuals. What a shame, what a loss of human resource available to build a more global and powerful body of Christ. I see much of the church's singular attitudes as a power struggle to maintain the status quo: well-intending, but entirely convicted men denying those with different political/social/spiritual agendas a seat at the Lord's table. I fear at times that our leaders are not being led by divine revelation, but I have hope that eventually the Lord will make His will known in more conclusive ways and that the church will be more receptive to follow. I guess time will tell, and I remain in the church, on the side of safety, ignoring the prejudice and trying to work on my own personal agendas of faith, hope and charity, praying for better understanding while also trying to develop stronger integrity.

Within the last couple years I lost my job and most of my financial securities. I am far from alone in this messed up economy. As I have confided previously, most of these things are merely 'accessories' anyway, and not the important stuff of life. But praise God, the Lord has been aware of the little Geckos on the wall, and I am truly blessed to again have a wonderful job doing what I love, and to be 'home at last' in the beautiful place of my nativity. I feel we are where we are in life for a purpose and reason. To think otherwise is to accept that life is nothing but chaos, and I know in small and simple ways that God lives and loves me, the little Gecko.

Slowly but surely I will become known as a gay and yet faithful man in the church. I don't intend to broadcast my orientation carelessly to whoever will listen, but I will talk about it if asked. People may find my blog and the word may spread. I care only to love and be courageous in I what I believe to be the cause of truth. I have nothing to hide anymore, and I'm not ashamed of who I am. I don't want to be known only as that gay guy who loves music and ice cream, but I'm willing to take the risk. Hopefully I'll continue to be able to serve the Lord and to help to advance His purposes, relying wholly upon the mercies of Him who is mighty to save.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I admit I giggled out loud with wicked delight when I saw this bumper sticker the other day:

"JESUS LOVES YOU, but I'm his favorite!"

What a coy little thing to say. It's funny because it's close to the truth, even though it stings just a bit as an afterthought. However, the more I've thought about it, the less funny and cute it is. I'm sure it never was intended to be social commentary on what's wrong with religion, so maybe I should just lighten up, but actually it's been kind of an 'en-lightning' rod for me.

In just a few words this little statement effectively points out to me why I'm uncomfortable with my church's veiled attitude with gay folks. . . or feminists, or Democrats, for that matter. It's that righteous knowing you're better than someone or something else. And you know it's true because everyone else believes it too.

But it's not just Mormons who do this kind of thing. Oh no, we certainly have no exclusive franchise on self-righteousness. We can easily see it expressed by other 'saved' religions or maybe Muslim extremists, but what about by political parties, by movie star celebrities, by our devotion to super-premium brands, or even by the 'gay agenda'? It's that whole 'I'm Right and you're Wrong' mentality. And the truth is I find little ways to practice it myself, just about everyday.

So now I'm making a conscious effort to catch myself at it. I'm trying not to be better than you, or smarter than you, or sexier than you, any more. And Jesus, I don't want to be your favorite. I just want to be one of the billions you know and love, who also loves you too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"There is joy in creation."

I've been away for a while, but I haven't lost the need to write and put my stake in the sand. I'm very pre-occupied with my new job and all it entails, so it is hard to carve away time for blogging, but I'm determined to get back into Bobbing Gecko. The other day I went back and reread some of my entries from last year, and it was truly good to hear myself thinking, so with this post I hope to continue my dialogue with myself and those who like to check in. . .

Last Sunday at church, a brother in my HP Group described a sacred event that happened to him. His testimony has resurfaced on my mind several times this week, as I have reflected upon it and the events of the last few weeks in my own life. The priesthood lesson was on prayer, and as the discussion coursed through gratitude and then on to guidance from the spirit, this older brother raised his hand and asked to share. He went on with his story: while on his mission as a young man, he was very troubled by the constant rejection he was experiencing, and so was pouring out his soul to the Lord, questioning why life was the way it was. Why wouldn't people just listen? How come there was so much strife and discord in the world? As he was praying, he felt as if he was being carried away, removed from the surface of the Earth, to view the world from the vantage point of space. How beautiful our world was! He then saw our planet diminish in the distance as the universe expanded to his view. Then he heard a mild voice that simply said, "There is joy in creation." This closed his vision, and he found himself back in his bed, to ponder on what he had been told. His vision of creation has guided and tempered him throughout his life.

Lately I have been busy creating many new flavors of ice cream for my employer. It has been stressful to get multiple tasks accomplished, lots of different components designed and figured out for cost, label information, etc., all by a deadline. I've been working long days, and yet in a word, I've been having the time of my life! Yes, some people actually get paid for inventing ice cream. I'm one of the lucky ones, and no, you can't have my job! Anyway, last week as I was making samples of new ice cream flavors in my lab, it was late at night, I was exhausted, and yet I started feeling such gratitude to my Heavenly Father for just being there and being able to do what I was doing. You see, I know what it is like to be stifled at work, to be bored at work, and to be unemployed. I started to weep for the simple joy of my creations, right there all by myself in my little upstairs lab at the dairy. It's not a fancy place, I have no team of people to manage, just a little ice cream mix and a batch freezer, bottles of exotic flavors, a little chocolate, a little caramel, some fruit preps, and my imagination. And it is wonderful.

This last Monday I took the samples of my creations, ten new flavors in all, to 'Show & Tell' with the owners and the Sales Team. Typically they launch 4 new flavors a year; it was going to be hard to see which ones they'd cut. Everyone was excited to see what I might come up with, since this was my first product presentation for the team. They loved the first flavor, a trio of sour sorbets patterned after Jolly Rancher profiles. And they loved the next, a northwest berry trio, and the next, a cherry cordial, and the next, a peanut butter ice cream with caramel and chocolate covered peanuts. Sample after sample they raved and couldn't get enough. They even liked the Orange and Licorice combo. By the end of the show they applauded, and everyone was full of ice cream and smiles from ear to ear. Then came the concensus discussion for what flavors to launch, which ones to hold back. It became evident they wanted them all; they ended up approving eight new flavors, and discontinuing six existing flavors in the line to make room for the newcomers. Now I've got twice as much work to get all these new flavors set up for production, but I'm happy.

And so I come back to this idea of having joy in creation. Whatever we do, we can take great satisfaction in what we do, even if it's splitting wood, as one brother contributed in the HP lesson. How true. We are also the creator of ourselves, day by day. With honesty and the gifts of the spirit in our lives, Heavenly Father is able to show us our potential, whatever that may be. Joy in creation is not gender or orientation conscious. It operates in great diversity. It is the work of our Creator.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

There is a God

Much has happened in my life since I last wrote in my blog, almost six months ago. Things got worse before they got better, and I simply did not want to whine about my lot in life, so I shut down my blogging. I had a number of job interviews, I flew all over the country, then one after another they dissolved without any offers. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I attract the kind of employer I desired? I was getting desperate and would have taken anything, but nothing came. It was time to learn even more humility. I needed to let go of my past failures in corporate America and the frustrations that were eating me up--it took some more time and reflection.

Over the Memorial Day weekend I went with friends on a 3 day camping trip to Havasupai, down inside the Grand Canyon. This is a magical place of living waters. It requires a 12 mile hike in and out, but it can be savored along the way, and I had a marvelous time. The aquamarine water is clear and brisk, springing from a deep underground aquifer that leaks out the canyon wall and flows down in pools and waterfalls on its way to the Colorado river. It was a time to get away from it all, to be with dear friends and feel close to my Heavenly Father. While I was there I felt like everything was going to work out and be okay; despite my fears, I just needed to continue to have faith in the Lord.

The hike out the canyon was the most daunting part of the trip. We elected to begin in the late afternoon, once the shadows were in the canyon, and hoped to be out by dark. The radiant golden light of the western sun lit up the high layers of white sandstone, casting warm light below that was soaked up by the red and ochre tones of the stone layers around me. I thought of hymns and hummed the melodies as I marched up the dry creek bed towards the waiting switchbacks that rise steeply up the canyon wall at the trailhead. It wasn't going to be fun, but there was no other way out. After two thirds of the way my feet began to hurt with hotspots, I had used up most of my water, and everyone else I was hiking out with were way ahead of me. I didn't like the idea of being the old slow poke and making others wait for me, but I was doing my best and that was all I could do.

After hiking about ten miles, with the two most difficult miles yet to go at the shoulder of the rim, I paused to rest. I prayed to my Heavenly Father for help--I needed Him to lift me up and give me confidence that I could do this. . . before the darkness settled in! I started up the switchbacks and felt as though charged with new energy and joy for being there, even though it was tough and challenging. I paused at every other switchback and waited a minute to catch my breath and for my heart rate to slow down, enjoying the view and splendor of the last rays of sunlight. When I was almost to the top, the sun made its final glint of glory before dipping below the far rim of the canyon. At that moment, I raised both my hands up in the air, feeling such gratitude for the blessing of being there. And since I was all by myself, I felt inspired to proclaim out loud to the rocks below me: "There is a God!" After looking at the expanse of space and sky beyond me, I felt again to repeat and magnify the thought: "There is a God in the Heavens!!" But I could not stop the prompting of the Spirit speaking to my mind, so again I spoke out loud: "There is a God in the Heavens who loves me!!!" Then I knew what I wanted to say next, without any prompting, "There is a God in the Heavens who loves me, and I love Him."

I reached the top feeling great, so alive and thankful for making it, and my son-in-law was cheering me on for the last few hundred steps. Surely there is analogy here with our mortal journey, is there not?

When I returned home from Havasupai I had an email waiting for me from a man I've known for years, asking if I were still available for employment. This person owns a food company in Oregon, and he was hoping I might be interested in his company. I flew out the next week for a job interview, and what he really wanted to know about me was where I saw my life's priorities and values, a personal question that almost blew me away. I responded frankly--my family, my career, my faith. I have since joined his company, and I am responsible for new product innovation, which is just exactly what I want to do. My new home is now in Oregon, which actually is my old home, since I was born and raised in Oregon and left 30 years ago... so this is a home-coming that goes beyond my longing hopes to a dream come true. I am simply thrilled with the new job, and credit my 8 month ordeal to the Lord's knowledge of where I could end up and holding out for me when I might have caved in.

Truly, there is a God in the Heavens who loves me, and I love him.

P.S. Just in case you're wondering, the Gecko will always remain a part of me and this blog. Anyways, I don't particularly want to morph into a salamander or a banana slug, even if they are more prevalent here in the great Pacific Northwest.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Recently, John G-W posted his feelings upon having his laptop stolen at a bus station: "I have lived into the awareness that, as important a possession as it was to me, it was, like all possessions, still just an accessory."

This statement brought a flood of recognition to me, because over the last 4 months I have learned the reality of 'doing without.' I had become comfortably accustomed to the privileged life of adequate compensation, and based so much of my consumption of material goods on wants rather than needs. It is surprising how little you can actually get by on when cold hard reality slaps you in the face. When you no longer have income flowing in, you are forced into a scarcity mentality that is much more critical about what needs and wants really are. Literally, the buck stops here.

It has been pretty humbling to accept that we could not get through this alone, that we were not financially prepared or self-sufficient enough to handle this ongoing crisis of unemployment in meeting our living expenses. We never anticipated it would take this long for companies to make a hiring decision, because in the past we had moved from one company to another with relative ease. We quickly used up the meager severance and our savings in a couple month's mortgage payments, and then thanks to my wife's sister and my brother, were able to cover another couple month's mortgage payments and winter semester tuition for a daughter. And yes, we've been living on our food storage, but so much more is required. Unemployment benefits only pay out about 20% of our previous take-home pay. The loving concern and generosity of our Bishop has relieved us from so much stress and worry. Church welfare has helped with the utility companies and provided fresh food for our table, and we have been able to volunteer in a couple different venues to give back ourselves.

At Christmas we received several anonymous notes on the door with money and gift cards to the local supermarket. We learned more than how good it is to give--we learned how to receive. We had a poignant and grateful celebration of the poor baby born in a stable--mostly with good food, a few small gifts and most importantly, each other to hold on to while singing the carols and bearing our love and testimony one to another.

We approached this month of February and another $2000 mortgage payment with no idea what to do next. Our Bishop said not to worry. How could we possibly take any more from the sacred funds of the saint's welfare offerings? We cried and contemplated about what to do next. We've tried for the last couple months to sell a car, but with little response. This month we began praying in real earnest for help. And I just kept lowering the car's price by $200 every few days until it was a real deal. So Thursday I signed over the title of my little red car named "Ruby" to a very nice woman named Deepika. She and five other foreign nationals from India are on a teaching assignment in a local high school because of a shortage of math and science teachers in the USA. Deepika has a PhD in Science and has been a principal of a school in India. Her colleagues are also well educated, bright, gentle and engaging. Again I was reminded of how much I actually have, as we walked into their rented house with only two mismatched office chairs in the entire first floor. They spoke of missing their families back home in India and how different the culture is here in America and how difficult it is teaching teenagers with no desire to learn in a vacuum of classroom discipline. I realized how meager they had it, to be separated from so much with only a few other people struggling together for mutual support. I humbly felt gratitude for my many blessings of family, friends and church that cements my life together in all the right and familiar ways.

Yesterday morning I went to the Mesa Temple, to thank the Lord for my many blessings and to petition for guidance in the interviews ahead. Tomorrow I leave for an interview in New Hampshire. There are developing opportunities in Pennsylvania and California. As I sat pondering in the Celestial Room, with eastern light streaming in through the tall windows of the beautiful room, I received a calm assurance not to worry, that all would be well and that I should choose a job that would best deliver on what I wanted to accomplish in the remainder of my career. I reached for a copy of the Bible, and it opened to Joshua 24, where the prophet exhorts,
"And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat. Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord."
I confess that I have served the gods of 'Accessories' more than I previously cared to admit. How much do we really need, after it is all said and done, and our excess is truly stripped away? What is really important? It is our family, our faith, our determination to do what is right. The Lord has demonstrated this to me in the past few months. I feel as though I have gained a wisdom that would not have come in any other way. When we move, it will have to be to a more spartan lifestyle. We cannot sell our home at present because we are $30,000 upside down on the value of it, so we're leaving it for our married children to live in while they finish a graduate degree at ASU for another 18 months. Hopefully the housing market will recover and we can recoup our equity at that time. We will need to move into a low cost rented apartment to manage our combined housing expense, and we'll leave most of our belongings in the Arizona house. But it's only stuff, just accessories, that we leave behind. We carry with us larger hearts, full of desire to give back to our God whom we know is aware of all the earth and blesses those who love Him.

Back in the celestial room of the temple, I witnessed even more. I sat in a plush chair, surrounded by fine things drenched in chandelier light, and watched the beautiful people dressed in white move in their family groups to hug one another, smile with joy and rejoice in being in the Lord's house. There were a couple young men with a pink tags pinned to white shirts embracing proud parents wiping tears from their eyes. There was a lovely young bride to be with an earnest young man at her side and family clustered all around, waiting for their sealing session to begin. I myself had felt the warmth as proxy for my great great great grandfather, William Bowie, whose grandson and my great grandfather, John Bowie Ferguson, immigrated from Scotland to the new frontier of Nebraska territory in the 1870's. These men I am confident to meet someday. They are not accessories to my life; they are part of my life.

I reached again to the Bible on my lap and felt the Spirit's prompting to turn to Proverbs. Which chapter? Eight. So I opened to the chapter eight and began to read:
"Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear, for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge. Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it."

I will miss my little car, Ruby. But the transaction has been for the sake of wisdom, and I feel the Lord has spoken to me in astonishingly clear terms. He has granted me an understanding heart. I hope to always retain the wisdom of these months of struggle. I have been led through my barren wilderness of sorting through the accessories of life to realize more deeply that which is beyond price: my loving wife and loving children, who in turn love what is right and are striving to be their best. It is not the car, the furniture, the house, the whatever. I love this church, the safety net it has been to my soul and family. And I love the Lord, for I know he first loved me.